Absolute Moral Rules
One may believe that an absolute rule against killing humans is essential because killing is always evil and inhumane. Others believe that there are great exceptions to killing humans, such as self-defense, that need to be taken into account when making an absolute rule about killing humans. If someone tries to kill your family member or tries to kill you, should you stand there and die because you do not want to violate the absolute rule, even if your reason behind breaking the rule brings about more happiness and outweighs the consequences of breaking the rule? Immanuel Kant believes that good will, what he sees to be the ultimate intrinsic good, along with following the categorical imperative determine whether we are acting in the right way. John Stuart Mill, on the other hand, believes that we should all think about the consequences of our actions, while also getting the most pleasure in all beings affected and the least amount of pain because of this action. Even though I agree with Immanuel Kant’s idea that humans should act according to the categorical imperative and that they should have good intentions behind their actions, I believe that John Stuart Mill’s utilitarian approach is better for society because utilitarianism states that the ultimate intrinsic good is happiness. Because exceptionless moral rules do not always follow the utilitarian approach, moral rules cannot exist due to the idea that humans should create the most happiness from their actions, while creating the least amount of pain.
In Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Immanuel Kant argues that humans should “act only on that maxim through which [they] can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” (Kant, p. 542). According to Kant, the judgment of one’s action is his/her intention behind the action regardless of the consequences. The good will is human reason without consequences, without outside influences, such as emotions. In order for an act to be truly good, it needs to follow the categorical imperative. This imperative essentially states that one must do “such as such, period” (p. 542). This means that one must always abide by a certain rule, no matter the situation. This categorical imperative, according to Kant, creates the idea that we must do things that we would want to be universalized because it is our duty to act under this maxim. In other words, people must do to others what they would want done on themselves and the rest of society. However, Kant says that humans’ duty is to follow the absolute moral rules set for humans. Since humans are moral and rational agents, they must follow these absolute rules established for them via the categorical imperative. The categorical imperative states that a moral rule must be universal, meaning that anyone at anytime can follow that rule. For example, if there were a rule that says it is bad to kill other human beings, everyone must follow this rule, no matter the circumstances (i.e. self-defense, etc). To follow these rules, a person must be rational because rationality rational beings are ends in themselves. In his Formula of the End in Itself, Kant argues that humans cannot treat others as merely a means to an end and humans cannot use each other to better themselves. As moral and rational people, humans must abide by the absolute rule. Humans must accept moral responsibility for their actions and are responsible for following the exceptionless rule. If humans obey the categorical imperative, humans will be obeying their duty and would be acting in good will- what Kant considers to be the intrinsic good. The intention of the individual is the only thing that is examined and as long as the individual acts justly and with good will, he/she is following the categorical imperative, thus obeying the absolute moral rule. Let me go back to my initial question- can humans break an exceptionless moral rule prohibiting killing others if...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document